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Opinion & Analysis

The Definition of Grit? See Adam Hadwin

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“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming,” said Theodore Roosevelt.

On Sunday in the final round of the Valspar Championship, Adam Hadwin got to be the man in the arena. He was leading the tournament entering the Snake Pit, a trio of the most difficult holes at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course, and he proceeded to hit his tee shot into the water. Hadwin took a double bogey, but he collected himself and went on to par Nos. 17 and 18 to win his first PGA Tour event by a stroke. In so doing, he joined the elite club of PGA Tour winners born in Canada, and he also earned a spot in the field at The Masters. Very cool, especially for considering the story I recently heard about his path to the PGA Tour.

Flashback to the year 2005. Henry Brunton is the Canadian National Team Coach. His phone rings. It’s Jim Kelson of the University of Tennessee. Kelson wants to know if Brunton is interested in bringing a Canadian Junior National Team to participate in Tennessee’s tournament at Holston Hills in September, which was perfectly within the NCAA rules at the time. Brunton says, “Yes,” and he puts together a team of five players.  His roster included four of the top-ranked juniors in Canada at the time: Ben Moser, Rafael Lee, Christopher Ross and Hugo Lauzon. It also included Adam Hadwin, a relatively unknown high school senior from Abbotsford, British Columbia.

“At the time, no one in the U.S. knew about Adam,” Brunton said. “The opportunity for Adam to play in the [University of Tennessee] event proved to be a tipping point … Adam showed the coaches at the event what I knew. He was a tremendously talented and committed golf athlete with great upside potential. What they couldn’t see is that he had a rage inside to make it to the PGA Tour.”

Hadwin wanted to play college golf, but he needed a scholarship to follow his dreams.

“I was not aware that any college coach had seen him play or offered him a scholarship or knew much about him before the tournament,” said Mark Crabtree, head golf coach at Louisville.

In the first round of the tournament, Hadwin shot 1-over par (72), which put him in the top-20 players. Not bad for a 17-year-old kid playing 2,676.3 miles from home. In the second round that afternoon, he shot even-par (71). The next day he followed with a 73. In a field that included top college golfers from the University of Alabama, Pepperdine and Vanderbilt, Hadwin finished tied for 19th.

It was during the tournament that Crabtree noticed Hadwin.

“He had an impressive golf swing,” Crabtree said. “And he beat four of the five guys on my team. I called him the next week. I told him about my background, our team and the amazing opportunities to get better at Louisville.”

The next year, Hadwin was a Louisville Cardinal.

Hadwin was not the best 14-year-old golfer in Canada; he was not the best 16-year-old, nor the best 18-year-old or 20-year-old. When the opportunity was given, however, his talent showed. It was a glimpse into the future; he kept getting better and developed a knack for thriving under pressure.

Hadwin was an All-American (Honorable Mention) and Conference Champion at Louisville, but he did not instantly become a superstar after graduation. Five years later, however, he topped the season-ending money list on the Web.com Tour, winning two tournaments on the circuit. More toil. More grinding. Long flights, missed connections. Hours and hours of practice. Then more validation, a 59 at the Career Builder Challenge in January. Now he’s a PGA Tour winner.

From me and all of Canada, congrats Adam! Best of luck at the Masters! We’re very proud of you!

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Brendan Ryan is a golf researcher, writer, coach and entrepreneur. Golf has given him so much in his life -- a career, amazing travels, great experiences and an eclectic group of friends -- and he's excited to share his unique experience through his writing on GolfWRX. He hopes you enjoy!

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Dave R

    Mar 20, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Hey coastieyaker I agree but I don’t think Adam Hadwin is a rich little brat from the country club there bud? Don’t paint everyone with the same brush,this young man worked just as hard to get where he is so stop it already. And guess what he’s real proud to be CANADIAN.

  2. Gilbert Catillo

    Mar 20, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Those of you who don’t see any grit in this young man need to give your head a shake.
    To top the Web.com tour, shoot 59 and win on the PGA Tour, takes tremendous grit.
    You have no idea how difficult this is.
    Fellow Canadian

  3. coastieyaker

    Mar 20, 2017 at 8:29 am

    How is Adam any different than the many golfers who struggled through their first few years of professional golf, only to have a breakthrough win at some point? I will give you two much better examples of grit…Patrick Cantlay and Jim Herman. The former, once the number 1 amateur in the world, playing with a debilitating back injury, only to have his caddy/best friend mauled by a drunk driver. The latter, once an Assistant Pro for many years, winning on Tour against all the country club spoiled brats whose parents are either doctors, lawyers, or independently wealthy.

  4. Johnnylongballz

    Mar 20, 2017 at 7:25 am

    I really doubt that he is “the definition of grit”, but he does seem like a nice guy and he is playing really well.

  5. People's Champ

    Mar 17, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    good story. he is so much better than americans

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Courses

Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure

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My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers to many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

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Opinion & Analysis

Be Curious, Not Critical, of Tour Player Swings

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After a foul ball by a tour player, the talking heads on TV are often quick to analyze the “problem” with that swing. Fair enough, I suppose. Even the best players are human and our game has more failure than success. But I’d like to offer a different take on swings of the best players in the world.

First, let’s remember how good these guys and gals really are. If you met up with the lowest ranked player on any professional tour at a public course one day, I’ll bet that golfer would be the best golfer most of you have ever played with. You’d be telling your buddies in the 19th hole about him or her for a very long time. These players have reached a level of ball striking most people only dream about. That’s why I’m more curious than critical when it comes to a tour player’s swing. I’m not thinking about what he/she needs to do better; I’m thinking, “How do they do it so well?” In other words, I want to know how they put their successful move together. What part goes with the other parts? How did their pattern evolve? What are the compatible components of their swing?

Let’s use Jim Furyk as an example. Furyk has what we might call an “unconventional” move. It’s also a swing that has won nearly $70 million and shot 58 one day. But I’ll offer him as an example because his swing illustrates the point I’m making. From a double-overlapping grip, Furyk picks the golf club up to what might be the most vertical position one would ever see from a professional. Then in transition, he flattens the club and drops it well behind him. Now the club is so flat and inside, he has to open his body as quickly as he can to keep the club from getting “stuck.” Let’s call it an “up-and-under loop.”

Let’s take Matt Kuchar as a counter example. Kuchar’s signature hands-in, flat and very deep takeaway is pretty much the total opposite of Furyk. But he comes over that takeaway and gets the club back into a great position into impact. We’ll call that an “in-and-over” loop.

Both are two of the best and most consistent golfers in the world. Is one right and the other wrong? Of course not. They do have one thing in common, however, and it’s that they both balanced their golf swing equation.

What would happen if Kuchar did what Furyk does coming down? Well, he wouldn’t be on TV on the weekend. If he did, he’d be hitting drop kicks several inches behind. That doesn’t win The Players Championship. The point is that the Furyk downswing is incompatible with the Kuchar backswing, and vice versa, but I’m guessing they both know that.

How can this help you? My own personal belief and the basis of my teaching is this: your backswing is an option, but your downswing is a requirement. I had one student today dropping the arms and club well inside and another coming over the top, and they both felt better impact at the end of the lesson. I showed them how to balance their equation.

My job is solving swing puzzles, a new one very hour, and I’m glad it is. It would be mind-numbing boredom if I asked every golfer to do the same thing. It’s the teaching professional’s job to solve your puzzle, and I assure you that with the right guidance you can make your golf swing parts match. Are there universal truths, things that every golfer MUST do?  Yes, they are the following:

  1. Square the club face
  2. Come into the ball at a good angle
  3. Swing in the intended direction
  4. Hit the ball in the center of the face (method be damned!)

But here’s the funny part: Let Kuchar or Furyk get off base and watch every swing critic in the world blame some part of the quirkiness of their move that has led to their greatness. When players at their level get off their game, it’s generally due to poor timing or that they lost the sync/rhythm that connected their individual parts. The same holds true for all of us. We have to find the matching parts and the timing to connect them. You might not need new parts.

After all, weren’t those same parts doing the job when you shot your career low round?

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Opinion & Analysis

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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